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As Islamist political parties grow more prominent in governments of the Muslim world, so too does the issue of what this will mean for science in these countries and for wider scientific cooperation.

But the diversity of Muslim countries — for instance, in how Islam is interpreted, and in their socio-political and economic status — makes a generalised prediction of what will happen difficult.

In Arab states, for instance, the lack of interest in science stands in stark contrast to the attitude of Muslim states in Asia and Africa, an editorial in Nature points out.

One general concern about science in the Muslim world is that many of these countries severely restrict freedom of expression.

But the raging debate on the relationship between science and Islam is encouraging, writes Ehsan Masood, noting the unprecedented levels of public debate about the ethics of new technologies.

Masood identifies three clear trends among the governments of Sudan, Iran and Pakistan in their approaches to science.

Despite weak or nonexistent science and technology policy in these countries, higher education has been substantially expanded and includes equal opportunities for women. Spending on research has increased and measures have been taken to improve scientific quality.

Link to full article in Nature